We first reviewed one of Anna Laube’s albums in 2015. She’s grown since then; since her 2016 album “Tree”, she’s now Anna Elizabeth Laube and her latest album, “Annamania” is a compilation of songs from her four previous albums dating back to “Outta My Head” in 2006. The song choice is heavily skewed towards the newer material from “Anna Laube” (2015) and “Tree” (2016) and also includes three songs previously either not released or given a limited release, including Anna’s reimagining of Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On”. Apart from this, it’s originals all the way.

The Tom Petty cover is a great example of making a song your own. Tom Petty’s original sounds like, well, Tom Petty, but Anna gives it a different spin, creating a piano arrangement with a Rickie Lee Jones twist and adding French horn tracks for an even more distinctive feel. It’s perfect.

The album has the variety and pacing that you would find on any of the previous four albums as Anna demonstrates her instrumental versatility and ability to move effortlessly from a pure, unadorned vocal (as on the album’s opener “Sweet Boy from Minnesota”) to the rasping, lo-fi twelve-bar blues of “If You Build It”.

“Annamania” is a perfect showcase for Anna’s work. It demonstrates her multi-instrumentalism, her perfect voice and her ability to create memorable songs across a wide range of subjects, from the innocent love song that opens the album to the environmental message of its closer, “Tree”. Her geographical and musical wanderings have all contributed to the eclecticism of this and Anna’s four previous albums. There are hints of Rickie Lee Jones in the Tom Petty reworking and also in “Oh My! (Oh Me Oh Me Oh My)” a mid-tempo shuffle that evokes Rickie Lee’s “Danny’s All-Star Joint” from the eponymous first album. The achingly beautiful “Please Let it Rain in California Tonight” even has a nod in the direction of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” in the chords leading into the verse. There’s a lot to love about this album.

If you haven’t listened to any of Anna’s previous albums, “Annamania” is a pretty good place to start. The songs are strong and the album clearly shows Anna’s variety of vocal stylings, multi-instrumental skills and studio expertise. Anna Elizabeth Laube is a unique talent and “Annamania” is a perfect introduction.

“Annamania” is released to download and stream on Friday January 22nd.

Ray Jones – CEO Talentbanq

Today’s High Five contribution is from someone who’s had a huge impact on the independent music scene in London over the last few years. As Business Development Director at Time Out he hosted the Time Out Rising Stars events at various London venues including Jazz Café and 229 The Venue, showcasing new talent and creating great nights out. After leaving Time Out, Ray became CEO of the start-up enterprise Talentbanq whose mission is promote and represent independent musical talent in London. Talentbanq was launched officially three years ago at 229 The Venue and has been promoting artists and events around London to critical acclaim (and full houses) ever since. Until COVID hit in March 2020. We all know the impact the virus has had on live music over the last ten months, despite the best efforts of Ray and some of the people mentioned in his contribution. Here’s Ray’s thank you to some of the people promoting grassroots music:

Thanking Champions of Grassroots Live Music Scene

At this extraordinarily difficult time I wanted to give a High Five to just a few of the people who champion the grassroots live music scene.

I have to start with Immy and Risa at The Green Note. This Camden hideout is beyond special. The tiny stage, the slightly higgledy-piggledy furnishings, the totally bonkers second tiny venue in the basement, the bifold toilet door and just about everything about the place. It’s all magic – especially the music. Immy and Risa are custodians of authenticity.

Perhaps the only thing wrong with The Green Note is that it’s not a short walk to The Spiritual Bar.

Raphael Pesce has truly created a spiritual home for musicians. This is a place for kindred spirits to meet. It’s a safe space with a small stage where audiences go to listen, to discover, to adore.

Next I’m heading south of the river. To Balham in fact, where Tony Moore provides one of the best stages in Britain for rising talent. Tony is a legend – and not just because of his history with Iron Maiden and Cutting Crew. No, it’s because he knows more about promoting live music than most on the planet. To talk with him is humbling – and to present a show at the recently refurbished Bedford is such a buzz.

Tony Moore

I want to give mention to special people who each deserve their own paragraphs but I think these high fives are meant to be brief.  Kate Jones ( Busk London ) Vin Goodwin ( Big Night In ) , Harriett JW ( Secret Sessions ) , Katie Smith ( Front Room Songs ) , Neil March ( Fresh on the Net ) Kate Bond ( This is Wired ) Ian Forteau ( So-live ) Ilana Lorraine ( Sessions 58) Dom Chung ( Soho House ) Joy Warmann ( Imaginary Millions ) Sep Cole ( Pizza Express ) Karen D’Arcangelo ( Vibe Village ) Alex Kerr-Wilson ( Discovery 2 ) Peter Conway ( Nashville Meets London ) Rob Lewis ( Richer Unsigned ) Beth Keeping ( Write Like a Girl ) Isi and Lewis ( The Round Up ) and Louise Wellby at Jam Sandwich. Apologies to those not listed. It’s not easy remembering stuff during the lockdown !

One lady worthy of special mention is Lorraine Solomons of Success Express. She was first mentioned to me by The Carnabys when I was running Rising Stars at Time Out. Lorraine is a tireless champion and promoter of new music and independent artists. She is a prolific promoter exuding passion and enthusiasm. From Omeara to The Strongroom to The Century Club – Lorraine is there. And where she goes, music goes too. 

Lorraine Solomons

Before writing a book rather than a post I am going to close by saluting the youngsters coming through – and at the same time pay due respect to promoters outside London.

I choose Alice Banister ( and Jake Etches) at Hope Valley Promotions, Manchester.

Watch out for those names. They have energy, ambition and refreshing ideas.

It’s so great to see a new generation of promoters fearlessly coming into a business currently suffering such trauma.

Alice Banister

Live music will return and I hope all of those mentioned above will be there plus a whole army more.

We like Stage Door Guy here at Riot Towers. We had a copy of his latest album in 2020 which arrived just before things got really hectic towards the end of the year and we didn’t have time to get a review out. It’s a cracking album; the production is as raw as it comes, working perfectly with the post-punk/post-blues poetry packed with American musical references and very British lyrical references, particularly to Manchester bands. It’s somewhere between bonkers and brilliant and it spent a long time on the office stereo in November. Stage Door Guy is two people, Adam Brody (performer, writer and singer) and CJ Williams (guitar player) and each of them has shared their High Fives with us.

Adam

Over the last 8 years we have been organising an event called ‘Cocaine for Christmas’ in little basement venues in South East London. Always supported by some of the finest musicians in London. The event is named after our Xmas song we released many years ago (can be found on all streaming sites as can our recently released 2nd album ‘Wroclaw’) and is actually a love song about a broken heart and spending Xmas alone. We always have a packed room full of people singing heir hearts out to this song. It’s sing-a-longa Stage Door Guy. Of course, this year was different. We didn’t believe it would happen and then we got contacted last minute by a local venue, the New Cross Inn. London was in Tier 2. The venue capacity was halved. People seated. Table service. Masks. The staff were amazing. At short notice we got The Nathan Osgood Trio and The Jujubes to play. Two wonderful, wonderful bands. We did our little set and, as ever, it finished with ‘Cocaine for Christmas’ It felt like the whole room needed this sing-song. It felt communal. Everyone in that room of course had taken some risk just by being there. We all had measured that risk but I have never heard the song with so much meaning and passion. I guess at some point during this pandemic all of us have felt alone and isolated. We have all been increasingly atomized and his felt like a communal howl.

CJ

Witnessing Biden win the US election, in the company of friends and an incontinent greyhound with a broken leg. The dog had the broken leg, not me. The dog was also doped up to the eyeballs on painkillers, whereas I was supping champagne.

Adam

 I was lucky enough to have a little break with my partner in Cornwall towards the start of winter. We travelled with our pandemic dog. A Greyhound that my partner had fostered and then adopted from Romford Greyhound kennels. Jackflash was a former racer retired last December 6 wins out of 22 (we found that out from the code tattooed inside his ear). Greyhounds often have difficult lives in the racing world. Jackflash was nervous and wary when we first made his aquaintance. But it was about 4pm, it was cold and we were on a completely deserted beach. Finally, we let Jackflash off the lead!! And the joy of watching that dog tear across the beach was something that will stay with me forever. Unrestrained and absolute in his happiness. After that we sat in an empty restaurant overlooking the beach and momentarily the world felt all right.

CJ

Recording whoops and hollers for a song using a Tascam recorder ‘in the field’. Bunch of us stood in a small park in Forest Hill, safely spaced, and made it sound like a beach party.

Adam

Two albums I have enjoyed over the last year, one of which has made a lot of lists and the other less so (although it was well-received) are Fontaines DC’s, ‘A Hero’s Death’ and Jim Bob’s ‘Pop Up Jim Bob’

I like the vocal delivery and articulation in the Fontaines DC album (odd I know to mention articulation but so many vocalists eat up the lyrics they have spent so long working on) and the Jim Bob album I just find tremendous fun. Looking at the world and reflecting on the fact we might be fucked. It’s political in a world where artists are a little afraid of the political and prefer the personal.

CJ

Being dressed as a tree for the “Stop Your Whining” video. I got many compliments for my portrayal. (See video below)

Adam

For the last 12 months when you leave my partner’s flat you have to slam the door. There seemed to be nothing else that could be done. Sometimes it took 2 or 3 slams. She lives on the 2nd floor of a 3 storey building.and the slamming must have been infuriating for the neighbours. I am not known for my DIY. My brain doesn’t do logic or detail. However, a week or so ago I noticed a little latch on the lock which you have to press in every time you close the door. The slamming stopped. The door closes smoothly. This has been one of my greatest triumphs in life, never mind just this year.

CJ

The annual SDG ‘Cocaine for Christmas’ gig at the New Cross Inn, with everybody singing the lyrics to the song and everybody really feeling it: “It’s cocaine for Christmas, how hard can it be, to find me some solace, and good company…”

Adam

In the first lockdown, in the summer heat, I started reading again in the front yard. I absolutely appreciate the context. Compared with many people who had families to worry about, difficult relationships to deal with, idiot landlords or letting agents (idiot letting agents I have plenty of experience with) and deep financial worries. Within that context I was lucky enough to sit in my front yard, leave the phone switched off and read ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy. What an absolute joy – a beautiful and heartfelt tale of the Windrush generation. Sadly, all so relevant in the last few years. Not only was the book a highlight of the year but my concentration began to return. As a child I used to read for hours on end but that had reduced year on year until I was only really capable of reading for 15 minutes in between train and tube journeys in London but now I was reading again for hours. My attention once more returning to a tie before the phone became a master and I became an algorithmic consumer.

CJ

The nicest couple ever who let us rehearse in the basement of their coffee shop, and even let Adam lock up. Amazing kindness.

We reviewed Gerry Spehar’s latest album, “Anger Management”, about eighteen months ago. At the time, Trump was still in his third year in the Oval Office. He’d done enough in that time to alienate millions of Americans and Gerry was one of them. “Anger Management” was an angry album and it was all about the damage Trump had done to the American people. It was also a classic example of the protest album, packed with well-crafted songs that are full of fury. It’s just as relevant now and it’s one that I keep coming back to.

The “Lady Liberty” EP is coming from a different place. There’s still some anger, but the focus has shifted; Trump himself doesn’t get a namecheck, but there are still a couple of references, one in the title track and one in the second song “Laura Dean”.

“Lady Liberty, Day One” is set in the very near future on Inauguration Day and combines the celebration of a new, hopefully more inclusive, politics in the United States with the familiar Gerry Spehar themes of immigration and the refugee experience. It’s a brief look back to darker days, but a much lengthier and more positive look forward to the escape from Trumpism. The musical setting is a complex, swirling, trippy prog arrangement in 6/8 time that emphasises the random, hallucinogenic events of the last four years. Bear in mind that this was written long before Trump showed his true colours with events in DC last week. It’s a powerful song with a powerful message; the people make the choice between cruelty and kindness.

Skipping past the second song for a moment, the EP ends with “The Immigrant Suite”, three stories of attempted flight from Mexico to the USA (two kids make it, one doesn’t). “Barrier Reef” has a Latin tinge with violin and trumpet overlaying some Eastern European touches. “Boy and Beast” has an acoustic guitar suggesting the sounds of a train while the fiddle suggests the whistle moaning heads north to meet his mother in LA; both the main characters of these songs make it across the border. “Meet Me at the Moon” is based around Latin rhythms and is partly sung in Spanish; it’s the story of a twelve-year-old daughter who doesn’t even make it out of Mexico to join her father. All three songs are powerful evocations of the complex human issues of cross-border movement.

Which brings us to “Laura Dean”. It’s much more simple than the title song, just finger-picked country acoustic and lap steel, but it’s every bit as powerful. Gerry Spehar writes very convincingly about individuals in difficult situations and “Laura Dean” is up there with his best. It tells the story of a true hero, a nurse dealing ceaselessly with dying patients while her kids’ grandma is dying at the other end of a Zoom call. This is all powerful stuff, but Gerry also contrasts it perfectly with the behaviour of Trump (un-named) and his hypocritical hijack of Easter 2020. This one will stick with me for a long, long time.

Following Trump’s election defeat, Gerry Spehar has moved on from the white-hot fury of “Anger Management” to a desire to return to the values of Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty poem “The New Colossus”- Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’, which is referenced in the title song. The remaining songs on the EP contrast the human stories of the USA and its neighbours with the current upheaval to create the balance of personal and political that runs through our daily lives.

The “Lady Liberty” EP is a heartfelt piece of work that highlights the damage already done to the Unite States while pointing the way to a more understanding and inclusive future. It’s brave and powerful and I recommend that you listen to it.

The EP is released on Inauguration Day (Wednesday January 30th) to download and stream.

Here’s another one of our second wave of 2020 High Fives. The band CHOPCHOP hails from Brighton and are described variously as out there, a mad crew, part jazz/prog/post-punk/hip-hop and funk, led by a mad Galician performance poet. Here’s how they managed to get the best out the dogpile that was 2020:

We started 2020 fully pumped up as the album we’d been working on for the last few years, “Everything Looks So Real”, was ready for launch and we had a tour lined up. All set to go with our new guitarist, Ade, we played two very sweaty and raucous gigs to kick this off – a Baba Yaga’s Hut gig at the Moth Club in Hackney and the other our album launch at the Hope & Ruin in Brighton. By the third gig however – at Worthing’s Bar 41 – whipping up a room into a sweaty mess was starting to feel distinctly jarring, as the seriousness of the pandemic was starting to set in.  The venue has one wall that is covered in acrylic fur and there was the uncomfortable sensation that to come close to it was akin to running through a field of Covid grass with your arms wide open.  Then shortly afterwards there was the realisation:  we might not be doing this for quite some time, and yes – rest of the tour has got to go in the bin. So, not such a high five this, but to rewind to the start – our debut album finally came out, it went down well – so yay to that! 

Xelís, our vocalist, is originally from Galicia in Spain, and as the worrying news of daily rocketing cases there was coming in, and the prospect of the first lockdown loomed, it came to crunchtime and he took one of the last flights out to be with family and friends. So with the band now spread far and wide we tried at first to play and write together online, but it just didn’t work as a live thing – too laggy and disorientating no matter which app we tried.  Abandoning that we instead went for ’email tennis’ – each of us starting a track and adding sections and passing it on. This felt like it unveiled a whole new load of dynamics and ideas that wouldn’t usually surface – so that’s been a definite upside to the whole thing.  

Outside of music we were all looking for ways to keep ourselves stimulated – for me I found it in walking and discovering parts of the outskirts of Brighton I hadn’t come previously across in my 25 years here. One favourite walk was to Coney Wood, where I came across this fungus which resembled almost identically a pork pie on a log.

It was a year with no big road trips or far-flung adventures, so any bit of magic or mystery close to home became extra special. Towards the end of the summer I was looking out to sea and spotted a man emerging from the water cradling what looked like a very heavy and brightly coloured object.  It turned out to be a 3 foot high Ganesh, which must have been cast into the sea as part of the Hindu Chaturthi ritual that usually happens in September. A crowd gathered round as the man hauled him up the beach and set him down on the pebbles, everyone charmed by this unexpected visitation. What was nice was that he stayed there for a month, with people leaving gifts and going to say hello, then come the high tides in October he was taken back by the sea, with just a few fragments of him left, smashed on the promenade.         

In Galicia, Xelis is better known as a writer than for his CHOPCHOPing, and November saw the release of the first translation into English of one of his books: Feral River – a collision of all the stories with a river as protagonist that have inspired him over the years.  

Around this time we were also able to go to a couple of low-key gigs in town, one a Miles Davis tribute in a church, and the other a VR gig-cum-immersive theatre experience at our favourite venue, The Rose Hill, who have also started a label and released our album, Everything Looks So Real.  The feeling of excitement that you were at an actual real-life gig was immense, and a good reminder of how precious a thing live music is. 

With all of us back in the same country, and with Xelis post-quarantine, we were able to resume our weekly rehearsals. In a year when there was often a feeling of disconnect with others, and where events came mediated through screens, it was a real salve to be in a room playing and creating with other live humans.  This was also the year we welcomed Ade properly into the band and it was exciting to hear the new ideas he was bringing in every week. Come the new restrictions in mid-December this all had to be knocked on the head of course, but while they lasted these sessions were the thing I was most looking forward to every week, so let’s call them High Five 5! 

Photo – Emma Falconer

After a bit of a break for a festive lockdown, we still have a few 2020 High Fives for you. The first is from Margate-based alt-folk duo Lunatraktors, who are choreographer, performance artist, percussionist and tap-dancer Carli Jefferson and singer and researcher Clair Le Couteur. The two bonded in Prague over a conversation about the possibilities for folk music after the apocalypse (obviously) and formed Lunatraktors in 2017. Here are some of Carli and Claire’s favourite moments from 2020:

Photo – Andrew Hastings

Number one has to be Moonfest, a big show we put on back in March as part of Margate Festival. We designed and made the set, curated a lineup of amazing Margate acts we know, and arranged a new version of ‘Moonstruck’ (from an Edwardian musical). It was an incredible turn out, with hundreds of people of all sorts, really bringing the Theatre Royal to life. Lockdown happened almost immediately after, so this was just in the nick of time. We still meet people on the beach who say it was the only big show they saw in 2020!

Photo Dana Goodburn-Brown

Two has to be our heritage commissions. It’s great that we can still do this kind of project even when we can’t perform to live audiences. We absolutely love working between fields – folk music, fiction, history, museum and gallery shows, etc. Researchers found that bones hidden in the wall in Folkestone church are over a thousand years old and almost certainly of Eanswyth, Britain’s first female saint. We were asked to make a piece about her life and death, which we performed at the museum. That’s led to another song-and-dance we’re working on now about a household god from Roman Britain (part of Ten Songs for a Lar). There’s also exciting things coming next year about a huge hoard of ancient bronze discovered on the Kent Downs, and Merlin’s sleeping army in Wales…

We’ve had a lot of cancelled bookings, of course, but the silver lining was much more time and energy to spend in Space Sequoia (aka The Preservation Room), a recording studio in the ancient countryside near Canterbury. It was amazing to find Julian Whitfield at Space Sequoia. He really understood what we were trying to do, so we decided to co-produce the record with him. He put up with our obsessional approach, sitting in on every mixing and mastering session to get the exact sounds and textures we were searching for! We’ve been working on a lot of new material and new sounds for our second album, and decided to release a taste of that on our Bonefires EP, which came out in October. We even got to have a socially-distanced release gig at Elsewhere in Margate.

Photo – Screaming Alley

We got to make our first proper music video this year, produced by Screaming Alley, a mad cabaret night in Ramsgate we perform at a lot. They hired a camera crew for us to make a film for ’16,000 Miles’. We had this vision that being a settler turns everyone into a tool of colonialism, so it made sense the protagonist of the story was Jack Hammer. We’re both really into animism, that all objects have spirit and agency in the world. We’ve loved Jim Henson’s work all our lives, and are really inspired by artists like Jan Švankmajer. We drew the storyboard, art directed the shoot, made and animated the puppets, and co-edited it too. It’s gone down really well with some of our smallest fans, and has inspired us to continue making more of our own video work in-house. It’s proved we are capable of producing that kind of work for ourselves.

The big one for us has to be finishing The Missing Star, our new album coming out on May Day, 2021. It’s felt really satisfying to complete something when so much else is up in the air, especially because the record is so connected to Brexit and COVID and the mess the UK is in. The music processes a lot of rage and grief about national identity, transforming some dark experiences into something very different. It’s a concept album in a way – a psychic road trip through British and Irish heritage – and we’ve done all the artwork and design, as well as recording all the instrumentation, arranging everything, writing the lyrics. We lost some tours in France this year, but we think this record will resonate with our listeners in the UK, in Europe, and further afield: it’s a record about apocalyptic change, about re-thinking who we are, and that seems like the right thing to share with people now.

It’s drizzling, freezing and absolutely miserable in the UK at the moment, so that would be the perfect time to listen to an album straight out of 1970s Laurel Canyon via 2020s British Columbia. There are more influences on the album than the Jackson Browne/Eagles/Linda Ronstadt coterie but the album still glows with sunshine of The Golden State, even though its creators Heather Read and Jonny Miller have fairly nebulous Californian connections but, hey, the first two Eagles albums were produced by Glyn Johns at Olympic Studios in London, while Peach & Quiet’s “Just Beyond the Shine” was put together with the help of producer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Dawson in Nashville, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. All of the songs are written by Heather, Jonny or both apart from the album’s closer, “Seven Daffodils”, written by Lee Hays and Fran Moseley.

The sun breaks through from the opening notes of the Byrds/Tom Petty-inflected opener, “Empty to Fill” and its poetic exploration of the contradictions and complexity of human beings. From there it’s almost constant Oakley and Ray-Ban stuff, with the exception of the slightly menacing Southern-influenced “Shoreline After A Storm” likening a bad relationship to a storm – they can both inflict terrible damage and leave a messy aftermath. There’s a little hint of “I Put A Spell on You” in there as well.

The songwriting is superb throughout, from the fairly straightforward love song “There’s A Very Good Chance” with its lovely Everlys harmonies to the more complex “Flowers”, which is based on the children’s book “Mr Cat and the Little Girl” which deals with love and loss which has a folky Byrds styling with a relatively complex arrangement that even features a bit of glockenspiel, courtesy of Steve Dawson.

There are themes running though the album; lyrically it’s all about love, whether it’s love for a partner who’s on stage every night (“Lucky in Love”) or for a place (“California Way”). The song arrangements are in the Eagles/Linda Ronstadt mode with layers of electric and acoustic guitars and some absolutely gorgeous harmonies, either as duets or as multi-tracked layers. There’s absolutely nothing out of place on this album.

And, as I finish this review, there’s no rain, and the sun is shining; that was pretty impressive work, guys. This album’s combination of superbly-crafted songs and subtle Laurel Canyon-era  arrangements is the perfect antidote to winter on either side of the Atlantic.

“Just Beyond the Shine” is released on January 15th 2012 on Peach & Quiet Music (P&QCD001).

Here’s the video for “Empty to Fill”:

 

“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”…Gerry Marsden, front man of Gerry and the Pacemakers, died yesterday, aged 78.

Gerry and the Pacemakers took a rejected Beatles song, which had also been turned down by Adam Faith, and turned it into the first of a string of 3 UK Number 1 hits on the bounce, culminating in “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Along with The Beatles, they were right at the spearhead of Merseybeat.

As such, and as a son of Toxteth, he would always be associated with the town of his birth and it was in this context I enjoyed my one and only meeting with him. My brother Paul had cause to work with him in a live context on occasion but a few years ago whilst working as a national press and media officer with the Plain English Campaign, I attended a dinner with him on the occasion of his award of an honorary doctorate from Liverpool John Moores University.

The ceremony took place in Liverpool’s huge and impressive Catholic Cathedral and afterwards we were at dinner and I found myself sharing tables with him and playwright and ‘Brookside’ creator Phil Redmond.  Queen guitarist Brain May, who was vice chancellor at the time, was also present. Gerry was charm itself, very entertaining and good company, just like the simple, smiley pop songs he took to the top of the charts.

But of course “You’ll Never Walk Alone” became a monster song, with far greater relevance than as a UK chart-topper for a Merseybeat group. And to an extent, so did “Ferry Cross the Mersey”, which I can remember singing drunkenly along to with a bunch of mates on a retirement ‘do’, whilst swaying from side to side on such a ferry, on our way to drinking the Wirral dry one afternoon.

And for me, his finest recording was the American top ten and last big UK hit, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”, which I absolutely will play next Sunday on my Caroline Flashback show on Sunday. Radio Caroline was instrumental in ‘breaking’ these hits, they were absolutely typical ‘beat boom’ songs of the period, emerging with that first great rush of offshore pirate radio; so it is only right that I should.

Gerry succumbed to a short illness not connected to COVID 19 in hospital. A blood infection had caused problems with his heart, which, following a triple bypass had, yes, a pacemaker fitted.

Gerry and the Pacemakers fitted that classic marginally pre-Beatles ‘beat group’ mould. They had a run of big hits, expanded into big production ballads with their main man looking for a career either on the stage or the telly as an all-round entertainer and when that started to dry up, made a good living out of cabaret and revivals and sixties package tours. Because at the end of it, try as they might, they couldn’t quite break out of being frozen in time, in a particular moment of social and musical history. 

Our contributor Steve Jenner now presents a two hour show on Caroline Flashback every Sunday morning between 8 and 10 am.

There’s a music business orthodoxy that new singles and albums are released on a Friday. This is increasingly being challenged, mainly by artists outside the mainstream as new releases are popping up at times that work for the song, album or artist rather than the dictates of the music industry. Abby Posner’sDear 2020” is a perfect example. It’s available as a download or stream so there’s no reason why it couldn’t be released at any time. The song’s theme is saying goodbye to 2020 and was released on December 31st, which is entirely appropriate.

The finger-picked guitar intro and Abby’s voice give “Dear 2020” a rural blues feel, while the addition of a second guitar shifts the song to a more contemporary setting, and the upbeat rhythm creates a positivity that fits the overall mood of the song.

The basic message of the song is positive because Abby’s encouraging us to carry hope with us into 2021. There’s an acknowledgement that, for most of us, 2020 was awful but also that most of us have something to take away from the year (new skills, new friends, new audience) and build on into 2021; I’m totally behind that and “Dear 2020” is perfect accompaniment to a positive start to the year.

“Dear 2021” is out now on download and streaming platforms.

Here’s an interesting Christmas Eve take on the High Five theme. Art Terry is a singer-songwriter and musician from Los Angeles whose songs explore sexuality and black politics. He also hosts a radio show ‘Is Black Music’ on Resonance FM. What makes Art’s contribution slightly unusual is that it’s a celebration from someone who’s managed to have a fairly good year against the background of the virus and other plagues. That has to be good for  the last High Five before Christmas. Over to Art:

 

 

High Five 1

My family is originally from Tennessee, so when I was offered January gigs in Nashville I said ‘Hell Yeah’! It was my first time playing in the South. Both my parents are from small towns in Tennessee and met in the great music city of Nashville, where the High Street still has a drum set and guitar player in every window.
It had been 10 years since I had visited their small towns close to the Appalachian mountains. So after the Nashville gigs I waved goodbye to the rest of the band and took a Greyhound bus there. I hung out for a week and discovered a lot about myself and my heritage. 
Here is a photo of my grandma I found buried in some of the family treasures there. I was told the lady on the left was my grandmother. And the lady sitting down used to like the way my grandfather cooked possum and sweet potato.

 

High Five 2

During the spring lockdown, my partner Helena Smith shot and posted a video of me performing a new self-penned song each day for 52 days consecutively. The highlight of it was when my daughter Naomi arrived from Sweden to isolate with us. She sung with me and helped us conceive the videos during the final 10 days.
On day 48 we did a song about how rare and fleeting are the moments we have been able to spend together. It was only after I saw the video playback that I realised Naomi was fighting back tears while she was singing with me.

 

High Five 3

On August 1st every year, the Black community in London march from Brixton to Downing Street to demand the government stop the continuing African Holocaust which began 400 years ago, and start reparations.
This year they took a different tack and occupied Brixton on the day instead. For my radio show that week, we did special programming around the event, including interviews with Esther Stanford-Xosei, one of the movement’s most eloquent speakers.
But the coolest part was taking over Brixton and marching in the streets with so many hundreds of people from different cultures and communities.

 

High Five 4

I really admire Extinction Rebellion. They are bringing awareness to the most important thing on the planet. And that thing is the planet itself. One day I went to take a look at the beautiful Happy Man Tree in Hackney which is in danger of being cut down because of lazy and misguided planning.
  I couldn’t help but get involved with this passionate campaign and played a outdoor benefit gig there for the tree. After I finished one of the arborists (tree surgeons) offered to rope me and pull me up high into the tree to do an encore. OMG what a life changing experience. To be up there to see what only the birds normally see. Up close in the trees limbs, so beautifully balanced and longingly extended. I stood in the tree with my guitar singing songs for 20 minutes. Close to the sky, far from the ground. That evening I felt like the tree entered my dreams.
  Since then the Happy Man Tree has been named Tree Of The Year 2020 by the Woodland Trust. That has not deterred Hackney Council and its clumsy Berkeley Homes developers from their plans chop it to pieces. So please help if you can.

 

High 5 Five

It seems the end of every year is its own highlight. We like to end with a bang by celebrating the holidays. I love Christmas, and just like most things in life, the best part is the music. I’ve always wanted to contribute to all the great Christmas songs written, and for the last few years I have been working on my own. This year, thanks to the incredible genius of my producer Raphael Mann, we created one. It is titled “It Ain’t Christmas”.
It is a Christmas song for 2020 about how much we have missed each other this year, and will miss each other this Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Art Terry released his album “Sex Madness” this year on CD/Vinyl and digitally on his own Alt Soul label.